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Ask Sports: Was the Royals’ playoff drought a record?

The Royals celebrate their first playoff appearance since 1985.
The Royals celebrate their first playoff appearance since 1985. Kansas City Star

Was the Royals' playoff drought a record?

Heading into this season, Kansas City's 28-season streak of not reaching the playoff was, by far, the longest current drought among North American sports franchises.

While it has been a long time since 1985, comparing streaks of futility among the leagues is an apples-and-oranges argument.

For all of that time, fewer MLB teams made the playoffs than any other sport, with only the NFL being close in terms of postseason exclusivity.

In 1985 there were only four out of 26 teams made the MLB playoffs. In the 1985-86 seasons of the NBA and NHL, 16 of the 23 basketball and 16 of 21 hockey teams reached the postseason. Ten of the NFL's 28 teams made the 1985 playoffs.

Expansion has now sent the NBA and NHL to 30 teams each, with the same amount of playoff spots, while the NFL has 12 of its 32 teams reaching postseason in 2014.

The Royals could only reach the playoffs if they won their seven-team division from 1986 to 1993. The addition of a Wild Card greatly improved their chances in 1994. Now they either could win their five-team division or beat out the other 10 non-division winners in the American League. Two years ago a second Wild Card was added, enhancing their chances.

So, by default, the longest baseball postseason droughts should dwarf any of the other sports.

The new leader in baseball, the Toronto Blue Jays are 21 years removed from their last playoff game – was Joe Carter's home run really that long ago? – as compared to the other sports' leaders: Buffalo Bills (1999), Minnesota Timberwolves (2004) and Edmonton Oilers (2006).

KC's streak isn't close to the MLB record, either, because of the long period of time where only the World Series participants made the postseason. The St. Louis Browns made their only playoff appearance in 1944, 41 years after the first World Series.

In more modern times Cleveland went 40 years from 1955 to 1994 without a postseason appearance. Twenty-five of those came during divisional play.

If one adds all of the missed postseason berths for the Royals, however, they had 47 chances to reach the playoffs since 1985, which would surpass MLB records.

In the Wild Card era, only Expos/Nationals' 30-year mark tops the Royals' streak. and since most fans of the Nats don't even consider Montreal to be related to their franchise, it's hard to imagine some Nats fan suffering all those years.

The Brewers (26 years), Pirates (21), Jays (20) and Tigers (19) have also had generation-long streaks in the Wild Card era.

The Royals are behind four other postseason teams in terms of World Series championship droughts, though. They've won a title more recently than the Nats (never), Pirates (1979), Orioles (1983) and Tigers (1984).

OK, tell me some weird stats to get me pumped up for the Royals:

Kansas City enters the 2014 riding a three-game playoff winning streak, the second-longest active streak this year. The Royals won the last three games of the 1985 World Series. Only the Giants, who are on a seven-game heater dating back to 2012, have a longer one. The MLB record is 12 held by, who else? The Yankees.

While most of the Royals will be making their postseason debuts, a few have had great moments with other teams:

▪ James Shields, who has pitched in six playoff games, won a World Series game for Tampa Bay in 2008 by keeping the Phillies scoreless for 5 2/3 innings.

▪ In 10 playoff series, Raul Ibanez was never better than the 2012 ALDS for the Yankees. He hit .444 with two home runs in four games against the Orioles.

▪ Omar Infante has played in 30 playoff games, highlighted by a great 2012 postseason with the Tigers when he had 15 hits in 13 games.

Finally, only six players currently have played more games without a postseason appearance than these three Royals – Billy Butler (1,164 through Friday), Josh Willingham (1,146) and Alex Gordon (1,030); and no pitcher has appeared in more games without a playoff appearance than Jason Frasor (646).

They're probably thinking it's "Our Time."

Joshua Wood

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